Fuel-laundering still in full swing
The south Armagh IRA-controlled fuel-laundering industry is still fully operational -- though security sources say only a fraction of the profits is being ploughed back into the 'movement'.
And the smugglers and 'washers' are still dumping massive amounts of highly dangerous toxic waste on both sides of the Border for local authorities to clean up.
The latest evidence was found just before Christmas, when smugglers abandoned a trailer loaded with 40 one-tonne containers of the waste -- which contains sulphuric acid, diesel and other by-product chemicals.
The waste is corrosive, poisonous and cancer-causing.
Every year, local councils on both sides of the Border are spending millions disposing of the waste. Louth and Monaghan county councils have to send the waste to Germany to be disposed of, at massive expense. The trailer was found two miles west of Dundalk, at Killin. It had a full load of plastic containers filled with the waste.
It was taken by Louth County Council to a safe storage area and will be transported to Germany in the New Year. It was the 13th trailer-load of toxic waste left in the Louth County Council area alone this year.
Louth County Council has asked people not to buy the cheap diesel being offered along the Border -- not only because it is illegal, but also because of the environmental hazards created by the production process and the cost to the taxpayer in both lost tax revenue and the cost of disposing of the waste. In previous years, the IRA-controller operators have dumped the waste in streams and near public water supplies, but after this was highlighted in newspapers they switched to loading up trailers and abandoning them to be disposed off by local councils.
Environmental protection officials estimate that the 40 tonnes of waste found at Killin represents by-product from the 'washing' of around three million litres of illegal diesel.
At a profit margin of around 40c a litre, this suggests that the operation responsible -- and there are thought to be dozens along the Border -- made a profit of around €1.2m.
Although the PSNI and gardai officially state that the Provisional IRA is no longer operational, sources in south Armagh say the organisation there is very much intact and controls most of the criminal activity in the area.
However, they say that dissident republicans from the Real IRA are increasingly involved in cigarette smuggling, also a multi-million euro business.
The Provisionals keep control of the area through the threat or use of violence, as seen in the murder of young south Armagh man Paul Quinn, who was beaten to death by an IRA squad in October 2007 after he had a dispute with a local IRA boss. No charges have been brought.
Garda and Customs sources say that though the diesel and other smuggling operations are costing hundreds of millions in lost revenue to the State, insufficient resources are being used to track down offenders.